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Jenny Lewis & Philip Terry: Book Launch at Goldsmiths

Wednesday 3 Oct 2018, 18:30 to 20:30



Book launch of Gilgamesh Retold by Jenny Lewis and Dictator by Philip Terry introduced by Michael Schmidt

The book launch and readings by the poets are part of a private view of the major 'Touching Mesopotamia: Text and Texture' exhibition of poetry, art, music and film collaborations by Jenny Lewis and Adnan al-Sayegh from their six year, Arts Council- funded 'Writing Mesopotamia' project. The exhibition features new Gilgamesh-related work by artist/ printmaker Frances Kiernan and images by photographer, Tom Hatton.

Jenny Lewis has produced a versatile and inventive retelling of Gilgamesh which brings alive a story that is as resonant today as it was when first composed in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) four millennia ago. In 2012 she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship to study cuneiform and she has worked with the British Museum, the Ashmolean Musem, Oxford, and Pegasus Theatre, on seminars and performances. Her approach relocates Gilgamesh to its earlier, oral roots in a Sumerian society where men and women were more equal, the reigning deity was female (Inanna), only women were allowed to brew beer and keep taverns and women had their own language emesal. With this shift of emphasis, Lewis captures the powerful allure of the world's oldest poem and gives it a fresh dynamic while creating a fast-paced narrative for a new generation of readers, students and scholars. She is the first practicing woman poet to produce a full poetic translation.

Dictator recreates Gilgamesh using the 1500 word vocabulary of Globish (from the words 'global' and 'English') put together by Jean-Paul Nerrière. Globish is a business language, appropriate to translate cuneiform which emerged from the need to record business transactions. Nerrière considered Globish the world dialect of the third millennium; so Akkadian, the language of Gilgamesh, was the lingua franca of communications in the Near East. This link between script, language and business is there in the substance of the poem. An underpinning theme involves trade, here the trade in hard wood and access to forests for building materials, links the poem to recent wars in and around Iraq, where the contemporary commodity is oil. This in turn links the poem to related issues such as migration and the refugee crisis. Working with refugees in Palermo, Terry was involved with putting on a puppet version of Gilgamesh: the children related to the boat scene viscerally.

Please see Jenny Lewis' website for more information. 

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